Skip to Content
Vitality Logo
Monday 19 February 2018

Unhealthy lifestyles slashing UK average life expectancy by more than four years

VitalityHealth research reveals average life expectancy in the UK is reduced by more than four years as a result of poor lifestyle choices and other health risk factors 
10% of employees can expect to have their life expectancy reduced by 10 or more years predominantly due to their lifestyle choices 
Premature death within the working age population is projected to cost the UK economy £125bn over the next decade 

Research from VitalityHealth has identified a significant longevity challenge facing the UK, with life expectancy being reduced by more than four years, predominantly due to individuals’ poor lifestyle choices*.

This research is based on analysis of people’s long term health using VitalityHealth’s Vitality Age algorithm. Vitality Age measures the impact of lifestyle, clinical and mental health factors on a person’s life expectancy. The disparity between Vitality Age and chronological age – termed the Vitality Age Gap – describes the number of years that an individual could expect to lose, or gain, in life expectancy as a result of their lifestyle choices and other risk factors. 

Importantly, the issue of longevity and reduced life expectancy is not confined to old ages. In order to assess the impact of poor lifestyle choices and other risk factors on mortality risk amongst the working age population, VitalityHealth has analysed the Vitality Ages of UK employees undertaking its Britain’s Healthiest Workplace study. 

In the 2017 study, 88% of employees had a Vitality Age greater than their chronological age, with 10% having a Vitality Age Gap of 10 or more years older than their chronological age, meaning their life expectancy is drastically reduced. 

This drastic reduction in life expectancy means that many people can be expected to die before reaching retirement, and the increased risk of premature death has ramifications for employers and the general economy. Based on these findings, VitalityHealth estimates that the UK will see approximately 30,000 deaths each year among the working age population driven primarily by lifestyle health factors. When projected over a 10-year period, this equates to over 4 million working years lost, translating into a £125bn cost to the UK economy. Additionally, these figures do not reflect the full cost and impact for employers, who are faced with the need to recruit and train a replacement to overcome the loss of an experienced employee.  

Shaun Subel, Director of Corporate Wellness Strategy at VitalityHealth, said: “The concept that unhealthy lifestyles are impacting on people’s long-term health and mortality risk is well established. However, too often this is thought of as a retirement-age problem, when in fact it is having a significant impact for the working-age population, and for the wider UK economy. 

“Fortunately, our research has demonstrated that lifestyle factors are by far the greatest driver of premature deaths, meaning that the majority of them are eminently preventable. For example, 40% of these deaths are due to lack of physical activity and poor nutrition alone.

“For employers, the benefits of improved employee health and wellbeing go beyond reducing the risk of an employee dying prematurely. We have seen from our research that healthy employees are significantly more productive, with as much as 25 additional days of productive time each year compared to their unhealthy counterparts. As a result, wellness has no trade-offs - by investing in the health and wellbeing of their staff employers can enjoy the benefit of a higher performing and more productive workforce, while enabling their employees to live healthier, happier and longer lives.” 



*The Britain's Healthiest Workplace research process took place between February and August 2017. It looked at a number of lifestyle, mental wellbeing, clinical risk and productivity factors amongst 31,950 employees, together with a broad view of leadership and cultural dimensions and organisational policies, practices and facilities that could directly impact on employee health, across 167 companies. Results based on UK workforce as reported by each company surveyed. 
Stepping up physical activity can provide a range of benefits for individuals, such as reducing the likelihood of preventable, lifestyle-related illness. Vitality's  award-winning health and life insurance, that is 5 Star Rated by Defaqto, helps people to lead more active, healthy lifestyles by giving rewards for healthy living.